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It’s cliche to say what a difference a year makes, but for Jae Crowder, it certainly applies.
Last summer, Crowder was shocked to be traded by the Boston Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the deal that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston on Aug. 22.
At the time, Crowder was also dealing with the death of his mother, Helen, from cancer. Crowder was very close with his mother, so much so, in fact, he thought about walking away from the game to get his mind and his heart right.
Crowder, who never found himself nor gained traction with the Cavaliers, was traded along with Derrick Rose to the Utah Jazz on Feb. 8.
The deal reinvigorated Crowder, who as he did during his days in Boston with Brad Stevens, rediscovered his comfort zone playing in Quin Synder’s system with the Jazz.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult,” Crowder told Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. “It was hard being thrown into the fire. But, from Day 1, the locker room and my teammates [in Utah] were great. The coaching staff was great. … It helped build toughness.”
While days are still difficult at times for Crowder, he has leaned on his father, Corey, himself a former NBA player who also donned a Jazz uniform.
“My father helped tremendously,” Crowder told Jones. “He was the one guy I leaned on the most. My dad has been a main factor in me getting over the situation. That’s what I expect him to do. He knows I listen to him, and we have a great relationship.”
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Crowder played 53 games (47 starts) with Cleveland last season, averaging 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 24.4 minutes.
In 27 games (0 starts) with Utah, Crowder’s scoring average jumped to 11.8, while also averaging 3.8 boards and 1.5 dimes. Crowder helped Utah knock out Oklahoma City in a first-round playoff series.
Crowder has been hard at work this offseason, looking to improve on the solid showing he showed with the Jazz in the final third of last season after being traded from Cleveland.
“I felt like my conditioning wasn’t where I needed it to be,” Crowder said to Jones. “When I look back at the playoffs, I got fatigued mentally and physically. I have to be better at being more fresh. I’m always going to be tough on myself. I’m just trying to be an all-around player. I know that I need to sharpen all of my tools.”
This offseason has been a return to normalcy for Crowder, who was selected with the 34th overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Marquette by, ironically, Cleveland, which traded him the next day along with Jared Cunningham and Bernard James to the Dallas Mavericks for Kelenna Azubuike and Tyler Zeller.
“This summer has definitely given me a time to focus on what I need to work on and not worry about the other stuff,” Crowder said. “It’s been a good summer.
“My head has been clear.”